Workflagration

Twenty five to one in the morning and I am sitting here, at my desk, wired. It’s been a hell of a few days – work all over the place, German mostly, a foul cold, and a ton of study.

In a more doubtful moment, I asked myself: “Why did you sign up for the Open University? What were you thinking?” It had occurred to me that my life is currently non-stop. Keeping up with family and friends, looooong work hours as my clients desperately empty their desks for the holidays, and then study. It all seemed too much.

But then I realised that the OU wasn’t the problem… I love doing it. Nor is the other stuff. It’s more of a puzzle than a problem and since my moment of doubt, it has been a puzzle that I feel like I have been cracking.

Until today. But today is only one day, and it was a privilege to be able to cap off all the professional strife in the company of William Blake:

If thought is life
And strength & breath
And the want 
Of thought is death;

Then am I 
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

(taken from William Blake, ‘The Fly’, in Muldoon, P. The Faber Book of Beasts, Faber and Faber, London, 1998, pp. 94-95).

In the film Educating Rita, Rita, an OU student, is studying English literature and one of her set texts contains this same Blake verse. When I was at uni the first time around – about the time Educating Rita came out – I saw it as more of a comedy, driven by the hilarious chemistry of Julie Walters and Michael Caine. Now, 30 years on and with a few of life’s beatings joining the extra inches under my belt, here I am following in Rita’s footsteps and I see the movie somewhat differently – as the story of a woman empowered, as I am being empowered now, by a fantastic institution.

And for that reason, I may have my doubts about late nights at my desk, but for my part, I doubt they will become insurmountable. Time to keep on keeping on…

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